I.  Introduction

On December 13, 2023, the Barna research organization published an article entitled “3 Things to Consider During Spiritual Conversations with Non-Christians.”  The link is here:  3 Things to Consider During Spiritual Conversations with Non-Christians – Barna Group.

After reading this article, a couple of secular sayings came to mind; namely, “strike while the iron is hot” and “make hay while the sun shines.”  More importantly, several passages of Scripture come to mind.  First, although not as well known as Matthew 28:18-20, Acts 1:4–8 (NASB95) is also a “Great Commission” and it reads:

4 Gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, “Which,” He said, “you heard of from Me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” 6 So when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; 8 but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”

The better known “Great Commission” Matthew 28:16–20 (NASB95) comes to mind:

16 But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated. 17 When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful. 18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Finally, what Jesus said to His disciples as recorded in John 4:35–36 (NASB95) comes to mind:

35 “Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest. 36 “Already he who reaps is receiving wages and is gathering fruit for life eternal; so that he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together.

The Barna shows that the fields are white for harvest in 2023-2024.

II.  The Three Things in the Barna Article

A.  Spiritual Openness is Widespread Right Now

I was very much surprised at the finding that a high percentage of U.S. adults believe in God or a higher power.  The article reads:

Spiritual openness is widespread right now. Barna data show that 77 percent of U.S. adults believe in God or a higher power, 74 percent would like to grow spiritually and 44 percent are more open to God today than they were before the pandemic.

According to Barna, the current spiritual openness translates to an unexpected reverence for the Bible.  29% of spiritual open non-Christians believe that The Bible is the inspired Word of God and contains truth about the world.  26% of spiritually open non-Christians believe that the Bible is totally accurate in all of the principles it teaches. 

These attributes of Scripture are valuable common ground for witnessing to a non-Christian. 

B.  A Give and Take is Required for a Good Faith Conversation

The Barna article reads:

Through this lens, we learn that positive spiritual conversations are more likely when Christians prioritize listening, not just speaking.

People of no faith feel more positive about spiritual conversations with Christians when the Christian shares their spiritual backstory and asks about their conversation partner’s own spiritual backstory. As you can see, the former is still more common than the latter, but both are important in having better cross-faith interactions.

One of the best ways to be an effective witness is to be a good listener.  By the way, this is a biblical approach per James 1:19–20 (NASB95):

19 This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.

C.  Actions Speak Louder Than Words

This finding comes as no surprise.  Note what the Barna article says about hypocrisy:

Yet, if non-Christians are looking for things that Jesus provides, have a positive opinion of Jesus and are hearing about Jesus from Christians … then why don’t more people identify as Christians? Our research suggests that the most likely reason for this disconnect is the hypocrisy non-Christians witness among Christians.

Put another way, the missing ingredient in many approaches to sharing faith may actually have nothing to do with what Christians are saying, but how Christians are living. Sadly, people of no faith or of other faiths say that the hypocrisy of religious people is the number one reason they doubt their faith. Perhaps even more telling is the fact that 22 percent of Christians say the same.

Hypocrisy has been a problem for God’s people for a long time.  In responding to the Pharisees, Jesus said per Matthew 15:7–9 (NASB95):

7 “You hypocrites, rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you: 8 ‘This people honors Me with their lips, But their heart is far away from Me. 9 ‘But in vain do they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’ ”

III.  Conclusion – Some Suggestions by Barna

Barna makes the following broad suggestion for churches:

It’s clear from the data that local churches could improve in how they welcome non-Christians or how they help Christians navigate the sometimes-awkward experiences of faith discussions. Focusing on offering more options for teaching Christians and then making sure those teachings nurture considerate, invitational conversationalists could be helpful focuses in today’s spiritually open climate.

My final thought is that there is a lot to digest here.  The Barna Access Plus program may be a good investment.  I’m thinking about making that investment possibly by the month and see how much I really use it. 

If You Are an Unbeliever

Please (1) read through “God’s Plan of Salvation” so you can understand what God did for you through His only unique Son, Jesus Christ, and (2), from the bottom of your heart, pray the “Sinner’s Prayer” meaning every word.  If you do, you will be reconciled to God – saved – through Jesus Christ. 

God’s Plan of Salvation

In the beginning, God, who is holy, created the entire universe.  As a part of His creative actions, He made humans (male and female) in His image to know Him.  For a while, everything was right between God and our ancestors, Adam and Eve.  But Adam and Eve sinned by disobeying God, whereby Adam’s sin was passed down to all of humanity, creating a separation between God and humanity.  We cannot do anything to bridge that separation so that without God’s intervention, hell is our eternal destination.   Fortunately for us, in His great love and mercy, God provided us with the only means of salvation through Abraham’s lineage by sending the Jewish Messiah, Jesus Christ, God’s only unique Son.  While retaining His deity, God the Son became a man in Jesus, lived a perfect life, thereby fulfilling the Law, and died a substitutionary atoning death on the cross, taking on Himself the punishment for the sins of all people.  Jesus rose from the dead, showing that God the Father accepted Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, thereby exhausting God’s wrath against humanity.  God now calls on every unbeliever to repent of their sins and completely trust in Christ alone that Jesus died for their sins and rose to life from the dead.  Every unbeliever who repents and trusts in Jesus Christ will be forgiven of all their sins (past, present, and future) and born again as a new creation in Christ, possessing guaranteed eternal life with God. 

Scripture References: Genesis 1:1, 26, 31; Habakkuk 1:13; Genesis 2:7-25;  Genesis 3:1-7, 22-24; Isaiah 59:2; Romans 3:19-20, 23; 5:17-19; Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 6:23; John 14:6; Acts 4:12; Colossians 1:15; 2:9; Matthew 1:18, 20, 24-25; Hebrews 4:15; 1 Peter 2:24; Hebrews 2:17; 9:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4; 1 John 4:10; John 3:16-18; Mark 1:15; Acts 17:30; 26:20; Romans 1:4; 4:25; John 3:5-8; 1 Peter 1:3.

 “Sinner’s Prayer”

Lord, Jesus Christ, the only unique Son of God, thank You for Your free gift of eternal life.  I know I’m a sinner who cannot save myself no matter what I do, and I deserve to spend eternity in hell.  But, I know that because You loved me so much, You voluntarily died on the cross for me taking my sins upon Yourself, and You physically bodily rose from the grave showing that Your sacrificial death was sufficient payment to give me eternal life in Heaven.  I now repent of my sins and completely trust alone in what You did for my eternal salvation.  Please take control of my life as I now receive You as my Lord and Savior.  Thank You so much for saving me.  I am now Yours forever!

(Scripture references: John 1:1-4, 11-14; John 3:16; Romans 6:23; Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 3:21-26; Isaiah 53:4-6; Mark 1:15; Acts 16:31; Acts 4:12; Romans 10:9-10, 13; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4; John 10:27-29).


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